Post by: Kim Stephens
One question that inevitably comes up when discussing social media with emergency managers is the problem of accessibility: Is the content on social media available to everyone in my community? In turn, community members with disabilities want access to content on social networks and want to use these tools during a crisis. Although there are answers about how best to address these concerns, before today, solutions were not in one handy location. That has changed with the launch of the Accessibility Toolkit on the Emergency 2.0 Wiki (full disclosure–I was involved with planning the launch of this site). The wiki is a voluntary initiative of the Gov 2.0 QLD Community of Practice in Australia, launched in December 2011.
The Emergency 2.0 Wiki Accessibility Toolkit was developed to empower people with disabilities to use social media for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. This toolkit was developed in response to the fact that not all people with a disability are able to access life saving messages delivered through social media due to the accessibility challenges that the tools currently pose.
The kit was pulled together with a team, they call a reference group, which included individuals from Australia, the United States and New Zealand. Dr. Scott Hollier, one of the group’s members as well as an Advisory Committee Representative at Media Access Australia, provides some context for why the group felt this tool was necessary:
“We’ve witnessed from recent disasters that social media has the potential to save lives, but people with disabilities often have difficulty accessing important messages as the social media platforms are inaccessible. For example, the main Twitter website can’t be easily read with a screen reader, the device that reads out information on a screen for people who are blind, but important emergency information can be accessed by using an alternative site such as Easy Chirp to read tweets,” he said. “As people tweet in real time, an accessible app such as Easy Chirp can provide people who are blind with immediate notification of when a fire starts or when flash floods hit a town,” said Dr Hollier.
Information for People With A Disability
The toolkit includes a list of tips, resources and apps that are intended to assist people with a disability to overcome accessibility challenges of social media. Easy Chirp, for instance, is described and linked to, along with information about and links to emergency apps, such as those intended for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing that vibrate and flash when sending emergency alerts. The wiki also includes emergency preparedness YouTube videos that either use sign language or are captioned.
Information for the Professional Communicator
For the emergency sector, government, community, media and business professionals there are practical guidelines listed that will help them make their social media messages more accessible. For example, information is provided about how to use apps to add captioning on YouTube Videos for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
One of the best aspects of Emergency 2.0 Wiki is that it is a free volunteer-based resource. Their goal is laudable: “…to build resilience by empowering all sectors of the community with the knowledge to use social media and networks in emergencies.” The fact that they are working to accomplished this goal via international collaboration, knowledge sharing and crowdsourcing locally and globally, is the cherry on top!
If you have any questions about the wiki simply leave a comment here or contact Stephanie Jo Kent, Working Group on Emergency Interpreting at Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc; Founder, Learning Labs for Resiliency.